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Ford gives thumbs down to report advocating new levies on motorists

Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford greets the crowd before speaking in front of unionized workers prior to chairing the executive committee hearing at Toronto City Hall as they debate the proposed Casino for city on Monday April 15 , 2013.

chris young The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says a city report that recommends funding transit expansion by charging motorists more to drive and park could run out of gas before it reaches the council floor.

The report, released last week and scheduled to go to the mayor's cabinet-like executive committee Tuesday, urged the recommendation of four revenue tools: a parking levy, increased sales and fuel taxes, and new charges on development.

The mayor, speaking with a small group of reporters at city hall Monday, said it's possible the report won't make it past executive.

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"I personally won't be supporting it. I know a couple of my executive members aren't going to support it. … It very well could get filed," he said.

Mayor Ford has previously said the money to fund transit could be found through efficiencies, instead of new revenue tools.

Metrolinx, the regional transit agency, has been tasked with finding a funding strategy for transportation expansion. It is in the midst of drafting an investment strategy designed to raise the $2-billion a year to fund new transit.

Councillor David Shiner, a member of the mayor's executive, said he, too, does not support the new revenue tools. He said the provincial government already has the money to build transit.

"Stop telling people in this city, in this province, you have to pay more and more and more. People are fed up," he said, adding he does not want to send the issue on to council.

But Councillor Michael Thompson, who's also a member of executive and chair of the economic development committee, said he's not ruling the new revenue tools out.

"We have to have a real intelligent discussion around that. None of us is in favour of more taxing and charging and what have you. But I think that there are some things in that we're going to have to seriously look at in terms of implementing," he said.

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Councillor Thompson said he's prepared to pay a little more "to have transit that my great grand-kids can actually enjoy in the city."

Councillor Norm Kelly, another executive member, has advocated for a regional sales tax to pay for transit in the past and said he would have to know how else the city might fund transit before he voted to shelve the staff report.

"I would like an explanation of the alternatives," he said.

He said it will ultimately be up to the province to answer the funding question.

Councillor Paula Fletcher, who is not on executive, said councillors need to debate the funding issue and have a position to send to the province.

"The head-in-sand approach really needs to end," she said, responding to the possibility that the mayor will try to bury the report.

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With files from Oliver Moore

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